personal, school, throwback thursday, writing

Throwback Thursday: Rhetorical Analysis – Scientific Research

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.

Science is, in and of its self, a study in uncertainty. Author John M. Barry qualifies this uncertainty, and its acceptance as a quality necessary in a scientist, using the characterization of the ideal scientist to characterize scientific research itself, expounding on qualities necessary for one to reach an answer to their inquiries, focusing on the ultimate goal of the scientist and positing questions to parallel the inquisitive nature needed for success.

Barry begins with definitions of certainty and uncertainty to expand on qualities required in a scientist, namely the requirement to “accept – indeed embrace – uncertainty” (line 10) as a basis for scientific research. With research, a scientist’s certainties and “even beliefs may break apart” (line 15) with new findings. Barry characterizes scientific research by characterizing the scientist that conducts it, emphasizing the ultimate goal of a scientist “to yield an answer” – a certainty (line 67). Barry moves through the passage with a scientist’s capacity for creation and inquisitiveness stating “ a scientist must create…everything…figuring out what tools are needs and then making them” – asking questions of a “would” and “if” nature (lines 39-49), so the tools of a scientist, is his tool to show the inquisitiveness necessary in scientific research. Ultimately ending the passage with the scientist’s possibility of either success or failure, both likely ends to the research and answers to the questions of the scientist, the structure of the passage thus parallels the structure of research its self: defining limits, gathering tools, asking questions, and seeking then yielding answers.

Apart from the structure of the passage being parallel to a research structure, Barry characterizes scientific research in other ways; such as, the personification of a “single step” in research to a scientist’s “single step [which] can take them through the looking glass” (line 31) or “take one off a cliff” (line 35) – scientific research is a gamble – one will find answers or more questions – certainty or uncertainty. A scientist must “move forcefully…even while uncertain” (line 21) and “the less known, the more one has to… force experiments to yield an answer” (line 66-68). In this characterization of the scientist, Barry characterizes scientific research in a way eve a non-scientist could understand.

Scientific research is built on uncertainty, and in yielding an answer and as John M. Barry characterizes a scientist’s journey from uncertainty to result, he characterizes scientific research itself, from the structure to inherent inquisitiveness to the search for certainty.


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